We are asking singers and musicians to engage in vocal warm-ups with their participants as they set up equipment and prepare to present their program of music. There are a number of reasons why these simple, lyrical exercises are effective with people who have experienced a loss of vocal power, or the faculty of speech, due to stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s and other ailments. The simple vowel sounds that range up and down four or five notes (ah-ah-ah, etc), or vowel/consonant blends (e-me-me-me-me-me-me) and you-you-you-you-you-you-you drew laughs recently) are achievable for folks who might not feel competent in singing along to songs with lyrics, providing them with an important opportunity to participate. I’ve found that when I present vocalises before a singalong, senior participants seem to participate more spontaneously and with greater enthusiasm during the main program, leading to more stimulation, greater enjoyment, and more physical benefits, such as posture and breathing.
Therapists are using vocalises and singing as ways to help some people regain speech after a stroke, or if Parkinson’s or dementia are robbing clients of the ability to speak. Speech is confined to a small area of our brain, but singing spans several areas, making it more readily accessible to us. All great reasons to sing more with seniors, and, when building program content, to thing about creating mood, tempo, content and pitch that encourages vocal participation.